TEXARKANA, Ark. — Two new plans for paying police officers and firefighters are on the agenda for the city Board of Directors, as is indefinitely tabling a third that has been under consideration for weeks.
During its meeting Tuesday, the Board will take up a pair of proposed ordinances, one that promises competitive pay raises for civil service Fire Department employees under certain circumstances, and the other an identical plan for civil service Police Department employees.
Each ordinance sets out three contingencies for pay raises depending on a given year's pay parity tax revenue and general fund reserve. Each ordinance's goal is to offer compensation "competitive" in "the Texarkana region." Neither plan specifies what competitive pay is nor how the region is defined.
At issue is the fate of a pair of quarter-cent sales taxes approved by voters more than 20 years ago to fund keeping Arkansas-side police and firefighter pay at parity with that in Texarkana, Texas. Pay parity has been a continual issue since, with citizens and employees who say the tax revenues have been mismanaged at odds with city officials who say they are insufficient.
According to the new proposals, any year the parity tax generates enough revenue to fund competitive compensation, and competitive compensation is less than that of other civil service police employees in the Texarkana region, competitive compensation will be paid.
Any year when the tax is insufficient to fund competitive pay and the general fund reserve is less than 62 days of expenditures, employees will not get raises. If the tax is not enough but the reserve is more than 62 days, employees will get raises to competitive pay or 2.5%, whichever is less.
A similar plan sponsored by Assistant Mayor Linda Teeters, which the Board has debated for weeks, is on the agenda with a "request to table this item indefinitely."
In December 2017, a group of city residents filed suit against then-Mayor Ruth Penney-Bell and Haskin to force Police Department pay parity with a court ruling.
The city has argued that the parity taxes are against the state constitution because they effectively let another entity — Texarkana, Texas — set the the Arkansas side's pay policy. Miller County Circuit Judge Kirk Johnson may rule that the parity taxes can no longer be collected. Last year the taxes generated about $2.26 million in revenue.
No other action items are slated for the meeting. The agenda includes a citizen communication time during which members of the public may address the Board on any topic for up to five minutes each.
The meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall, 216 Walnut St.